The danger of the genre stamp
I went into this whole writing thing as a science fiction writer. I read a lot of sci-fi, watched a lot of sci-fi and enjoyed most sci-fi. It stood to reason that I would write in the genre I enjoyed consuming.
And it was quite a bit of fun. I typed a lot and this thing called a book happened, and there was sunshine, rainbows, butterflies and free chocolate. (Because free chocolate is the best thing ever.)
For my next book, I stuck with science fiction because I had already stamped my forehead with the sci-fi stamp. ((Metaphorically, of course.) That particular stamp is very cool. It's 3D and revolves and opens a spaceship door to escape into the next galaxy and <insert sci-fi babble here>.)
|My novel wasn't nearly as hardcore sci-fi as Star Wars,|
but I think it was still sci-fi. *shrugs* Anyways, it's a good excuse
to put a Star Wars poster in.
It turned into a sci-fi fantasy novel.
I was very confused, as you could imagine. I was a science fiction writer! I was the creator of evil experiments, gadgets and secret organizations! I did not write fantasy!
After several days of panicking, I made myself breathe. It was a sci-fi fantasy novel. There was still some sci-fi in there, no need to panic.
So obviously for my next novel I dived head first into the high fantasy genre, and I'm okay with that.
But how did this strange genre jumping thing happen? More importantly, is it okay? (And most importantly, will there still be free chocolate?)
Well, how it happened was pretty easy to answer. They were different stories. One story had to be a sci-fi and the other had to be a mix, and the last one had to be a high fantasy. There was no other way for me to tell my story with the characters without writing in those genres. It was in the name of art, and I'm cool with that.
Is this genre jumping alright, though? You hear lots of advice about keeping to a single genre so you don't confuse your reader. After all, if your favourite author writes historical romance then it's going to be a bit of a surprise if you pick up their newest book to find it's set on Saturn where the last remains of humanity must defend themselves from invading space bugs.
|For some reason, the Internet is short of images involving a |
desperate last stand against invading space bugs on Saturn.
Spidey's filling in for it, don't you worry.
The thing is, though, that if you stick with the same genre then that stamp on your forehead is going to dig into your skull and start defining you. You'll be known for writing one particular genre, and the longer you write the same thing the harder it'll be to escape. (And may I point out that it's okay to keep writing the same thing, but if you want a break then it'll be harder to do so. Not only will your readers get upset, but you'll probably have a hard time adjusting, too.)
What's a writer to do, then? I would suggest trying different genres, even if you're not too sure about it. I had no clue how to write a high fantasy (and it probably shows in my writing) but I'm learning something. And I'm enjoying it.
There are only two conditions. One, don't write in a genre you don't like. I'm sure you're awesome, but you probably won't be good at something you dislike. Two, keep your style and voice. Without them you're floating in a vast, endless ocean with no life raft. (Not a past time I'd recommend.)
(And to answer the chocolate question, yes, there probably will still be free chocolate. And on a side note, maybe not all of your readers will appreciate your new direction. Some will, though, and you might pick up new readers. (And on another side note, my next genre to try out is contemporary, because why not?))
If you keep expanding your horizons, pushing the limits, taking risks, you'll find your writing will improve. And even if it's a total failure, you've learned something. In my book, that's not a failure.
Why would we want to box ourselves in a tiny corner of the universe when there's whole galaxies to explore? I challenge you to wipe your genre stamp off your forehead and replace it with a writer's stamp. Get out there and explore!
Have you ever genre jumped? Did you enjoy it or would you rather not repeat the experience? Comment below!